Nathalie Baudin is an extraordinary girl even before she discovers her psychometric abilities. She’s just sixteen, but she’s a journalist ghostwriting a paper’s column of new arrivals to the public morgue. Those columns and the deceased’s public display may lead these unknowns to be identified, so it’s a rather valuable job even if it is morbid.
Even so, once this strong-stomached girl realizes she may be the key to finding the Dark Artist, she wavers and briefly quits investigating on her own. As valuable as it is, she’s still a child and hunting a serial killer who is very aware of you is terrifying. Were I in her situation, I doubt I would choose differently. Nathalie may not have resumed her efforts at all if not for a catastrophic event.
The scientific thought Zdrok put into the idea of the Insightfuls is a strong point of the novel as well. Some of their gifts are incredible, but there are serious drawbacks as well that keep them in check. Nathalie’s father can heal, but he takes on a minor form of the injury or sickness he heals. Nathalie herself can see the past when she touches an object or body, but she loses a memory when she does so. For instance, her first vision takes away her memory of buying flowers from a woman that morning. The more detailed and lengthy a vision, the more time she loses.
WHAT LEFT ME WANTING:
The sense of setting is vivid; you can really feel the research and work put into bringing 1887 France to life. However, that level of detail occasionally bogs down the pacing and makes the novel a bit harder to get through.
And I must say, I have never seen a single novel anti-climax so many times. The identity of the Dark Artist? His fate? The death of another major antagonist? They’re all quick and without dramatics. You expect something a little more momentous or shocking given the state of terror they’ve put Paris in, but no. It’s like standing at the edge of a cliff thinking there’s a long way down if you go over, getting pushed over, and landing safely on a large plateau after maybe two feet of falling.
There’s no romance to be found in Spectacle if that’s what you’re looking for, but I hear there is some in its sequel Sensation. I’ve also heard the sequel is a bit weaker, so I’m not sure if I will read it myself. Whether you want to read both books or treat Spectacle as a standalone, you’ve got a thoughtful, well-crafted novel to look forward to.